What is Bonsai ?
Bonsai is a unique and living practise that blends art and horticulture. While its has its origins in China, bonsai was adopted by the Japanese in the eighth century and has been practised there ever since.
Bonsai literally translates as 'a tree in a pot'. A Bonsai is a plant which is established in an aesthetically harmonious container, and has been subjected to a number of horticultural and sculptural techniques in order to create a tree like image.
Bonsai is an attempt to artificially reproduce the majesty and age of a mature tree, but in miniature.
On it's highest plane bonsai is pure sculpture. Living plant material provides the medium whilst horticulture provides the means by which the artist is able to create his work of art. The pleasure each individual gains from growing bonsai will vary according to their reasons for taking up the challenge of bonsai.
How do you keep Bonsai small ?
A bonsai is not a naturally dwarfed variety, neither is it treated with any special potion to stop it growing larger. Its growth is not restricted by confining the roots in a pot.
Both the roots and the foliage are required to be constantly clipped and trimmed to maintain the miniaturising process. Trees are pruned to achieve the desired shape and maintain a balance between the root and foliage growth.
Can I keep my Bonsai inside ?
Traditional bonsai are displayed outside. Sunshine is essential to a trees growth as it is a vital factor in the plants nutrition. Therefore do not bring your bonsai inside for extended periods. Bonsai may be displayed indoors as a centrepiece but no more than 2 -3 days at a time and only every few weeks or so. You should also avoid exposure to artificial environments such as air conditioning or heating as these will have an adverse affect on your bonsai.
In recent years there has been a strong move to developing bonsai for indoors. Principally these are plants that are suitable as indoor plants. Whilst the traditionalists frown upon the notion there are a select number of books available which specifically address the issue of indoor bonsai.
What sort of tree is suitable for Bonsai ?
There is no such thing as a 'Bonsai Plant'. The type of plant or its variety does not make it a bonsai.
The way a plant is cultivated, styled, pruned and position in its chosen container makes it a bonsai and sets it apart from being just a potted tree.
Providing the plant chosen has foliage that is small or can be reduced through time in keeping with the size of the finished bonsai, likes living in a small container and grows well in your particular climate, just about anything will be suitable. A good rule of thumb when selecting suitable plant is "if it grows well in local environment, is widely planted, long-lived and is hardy in your summers - go for it, but if you never see it commonly planted or doing well in your conditions - forget it."
There is no such thing as an 'instant' bonsai because they take time and care to develop.
What do I look for when buying a Bonsai ?
The following are a number of points to bear in mind when buying or viewing a bonsai.
The roots should radiate from the base of the trunk and appear to grip the soil.
The base of the trunk should be flared and taper towards the apex.
The branches should be positioned and shaped to fall within a general triangle shape.
The overall picture should present a mature appearance.
Bonsai should always be viewed with the eye level at the trees approximate mid-line.
How do I learn more about Bonsai ?
Books and videos are great sources of information and will provide much needed basic instructions into all the general aspects of bonsai cultivation.
But by far the best learning process is by interaction with other bonsai enthusiasts whether they be tutors, hobbyists or professional growers. These people are intimately aware of the peculiarities of individual plants and their growing conditions. They are also familiar with the types of plants which will grow and prosper in your local environment.
Many community centres, nurseries and bonsai clubs have classes in bonsai, so inquire locally.